Simple Requests

(photo not my own)
(photo not my own)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I only asked for honesty

Never requested that you make good on your promises

What were you afraid of?

Were you surprised that I’m not the “eat it too” part of the cake statement

I am layers

Light, fluffy delicious layers

The whole cake

You didn’t realize it until you couldn’t swallow

Choked on your words

Reached for water but found that a glass wasn’t enough to clear your airway

I reside in your lungs

Closed your eyes and tried to breathe deeply but was surrounded by the memory of my scent…cake baking

I only asked for honesty

Never requested that you explain undigested fantasies

I only asked for honesty

In exchange for rich layers of life fulfilled and loyalty

Offered you days passed as the honored guest at the banquet of my commitment

I only asked for honesty

You’d rather subsist on the malnutrition of your lies

That table has a place setting for one

Eat up.

© Stephanie Bryant 2014

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Realization of Truth

 

truth (1)

 

She straddled his lap, staring into his eyes. Am I forcing this? She questioned herself.  Am I making intimacy my mission?  It had been two months since her breakup with “what’s his name”, as her friends had resorted to calling him.  Two whole months since she had sworn off love and embraced the pursuit of all things hedonistic.

Just go with it and stop with the fucking questions! She chided herself.  His eyes were honest…kind.  Who cares! You’re not doing this for the emotion.  Pressing her lips to his, she felt his hands slide around her back, threaded fingers pulling her closer.  “You’re beautiful”, he exhaled the words into her open mouth.  She pulled back, refusing to inhale them.  “Let me fix you a drink.”  Sliding off his lap she walked in the direction of the kitchen.

You’re beautiful.” He leaned against the door frame, watching her intently.  “That’s all” crossing his arms, eyebrow quirked, three days of stubble only justifiable for someone in his line of work, “no additional motivation”.

She believed him.  “Thank you.” Awkward.

“Do you believe it?” He asked, genuinely curious.  She continued pouring, playing amateur barkeep.  He filled the silence,  “I recall the day I saw you speaking to someone in the coffee shop, you never smiled, you were so intense. It was stunning.”   He stepped forward, away from the door frame.  “I remember thinking that your teeth were perfectly imperfect and I loved how your lips curved at the corner.  I was willing to approach you even if it meant having that mouth tell me to shove off.”  She smiled at how his accented speech made everything alluring.

Handing him the glass she slid past.  No eye contact. “Are you working tomorrow?, she asked, obviously seeking a distraction.  “If not, there’s a gallery preview that you may be interested in.”  She watched him sip his drink thoughtfully.

“Will this give me more time with you?  If so, tell me what time and I will be there.”  He took another slow sip allowing the whiskey to slip past his lips with appreciation.

“Do you ever say the wrong thing?”  She asked skeptically.

“Of course I do, most of the time, actually”, he laughed.  “It just seems to happen less frequently when I’m with you”, he paused, “something about you makes me want to say the right thing all of the time.”

She walked toward him.  Damn Oprah and her ‘aha’ moments.  Is this mine?

Is he part of my truth? Someone who wants to please me.  The guy that doesn’t try to justify why he doesn’t “need” me with scientifically therapeutic explanations.  The one who’s okay needing me because he’s sure that he wants me.

She realized, two months after “what’s his name”, that she had been missing something as human and fragile as necessity.

Fucking emotions.

 

(Constructed to Kimbra: Settle Down)

Love Note

I no longer write about love

It used to interest me

Cause me to ponder

Leave me utterly bewildered and befuddled

Create longing

Force me to gesticulate wildly

Generate tears

Emphasize pain

Put the exclamation point on joy

I came to the conclusion that

I no longer write about love.

Today.

Bigger Shoes

My structure is clean
I call it “fuck your expectations” clean
I purposefully destroyed my perfectly applied lipstick
Realized that maybe it’s Maybelline that convinced me that my natural cupids bow is just not peaked enough
My lips not pouty enough
My teeth not bright enough
Unless they are encased, surrounded or accented by Red Revival or Lavender Voltage
Or maybe not
Maybe it’s the fact that my words get lost when I am reduced to a picture of full glossy lips
Stare worthy tops and bottoms that cause your ears to turn off
Just one more pretty bitch
Creating a glitch in the system of educated conversation

I intentionally demolished the artfully blended eye shadow
Embraced after hundreds of YouTube videos
Black girls drawing feline-esque accents
Creating upturned corners
“chinky eyes” in Nubian skin
Calculated exoticism
Removed the fluttering lashes
Oprah wears mink, so must I
Stopped enhancing my big brown eyes with bright pigments
Ceased to be aware of and stopped using my angles
When I realized my MAC is inviting you to mac
Causing you to miss the sincerity behind my statements
The depth of passion visually conveyed lost to cosmetic effect
Just one more bad bitch
Creating an error in the syntax

Removed the skinny jeans
The accent to the full bottom
That made you lose your True Religion
Trust me even the strong willed can get lost
RiRi’d and Minaj’d into a mirage of who I should be
Losing who I am
Did you hear me?
My eyes are up here
My lips are moving
Get your narrow mind off my narrow waist
My verbal is knocking on your thick skull
Your mental is concentrated on knocking off these thick thighs
Who’s at fault?
Never mind placing blame
I don’t want to be
The flyest chick
Creating a fly in the ointment

I kicked off those heels hours ago
Your expectations
My imprint
Your lust
My legacy
Real Louboutins Fake Jimmy Choos
All that I know is
I have bigger shoes
to fill

© 2014 Stephanie Bryant 

My Existence

I feel prettier when he forgets that I am
Dress for me
Remind myself that he isn’t validation
I was phenomenal, fly, hundred proof
Certified
Before he came along

I feel sexier when he forgets that I am
Use my womanhood to my advantage
Control my environment without thinking of him
Hips swaying, heels clicking, thighs flexing when I walk
Thoroughbred
When he leaves

I feel more powerful when he tries to dismiss me
Make decisions that don’t regard his needs
Flex my finger, pull triggers
Straight back, quirked eyebrow, arms folded
Boss  (but ladylike)
Even if he doesn’t return

This is my universe
The experience of my existence
All that I am

The Funeral

BKLYNIt would be interesting to attend an entertaining funeral.  You know the ones where everyone is smiling, telling stories, having a drink and celebrating the life of someone who has lived well and moved on.  Maybe something akin to the cop funerals you see on shows like The Wire-if you haven’t seen one, you might want to grab a season; they’re quite lively, even the departed has a beer in hand.  Unfortunately, I rarely hear about these celebrations of life beyond television.  Things are typically quite the opposite.  I guess then, my experience with this particular funeral shouldn’t be surprising.

I went numb.  I hadn’t felt anything since the day I was told that she died and I had no anticipation of feeling anything, ever again.  I remember saying that I preferred a memorial of sorts, no visuals, no pomp considering the circumstance, no strangers.  A grouping of people who knew her well enough to miss her when she was gone.  People that actually knew she was missing before the funeral, outside of the whispered conversations of country folk over coffee.

No weeping and wailing, no Mahalia Jackson soundtracks, no Imitation of Life breakdowns, just quiet; a lost concept for Southern black church folk, something that puts a check mark in the column for Catholic stoicism.

My muddled thoughts wouldn’t allow me to take in the detail of highway signs traveling to this out of the way place, “somewhere in Alabama”, that I had little familiarity with and no interest in returning to.  She was no celebrity but these small town people had the same base curiosity of LA paparazzi .  I felt eyes on me as I walked in the room and I tried to return the favor by taking in their faces, quickly giving up.  Some distant relatives that I wasn’t aware existed, elderly people who unwittingly made sport of attending funerals of those they didn’t know under the guise of paying respect, this time muttering about “the young leaving this world early”, childhood acquaintances who hadn’t seen her since her New York exodus 33 years before, and church members offering support to her mother and perhaps looking for an opportunity to experience Holy Ghost fever.  Yes, I am as cynical today about the event as I was in that moment.

I made my way forward, unsure of what to expect.  I hadn’t seen this person since I was an 11 year old girl; perhaps the pain would be dulled by lowered expectations or love that had lessened with the passage of time.  Maybe anger would prevent me from caring. Maybe.  She lay there, changed, and I instantly felt it.  Changes that time didn’t protect me from now or then.  There were differences that I knew only I felt, greater than the transition from here on earth to the other side.  More significant than just breathing or not.  Imperceptible to those who had probably never known their impact. The way she squinted even when she had her glasses on, her beautiful brown hair with the halo of red, tinted by the sun, the same shade of my own little girl’s.  The swaying manner of a walk that could compel people to follow.  She would no longer speak in that adopted tone of the people that she loved most.  Her fingers that used to work deftly to prepare Fried dumplings and fresh carrot juice on Saturday afternoons in our city apartment were sedately intertwined.  Her spirit was broken.

The mouth that blessed out those who crossed her or sang the melody of Dennis Brown reggae tunes was silent, the smile lines in the corner were gone, a simple threaded line that didn’t properly convey who she was.  Gone was the broomstick skirt that enhanced her hips and narrow waist.  The tank top and gladiator sandals, popular in the 80’s only to make an appearance again in the 90’s….were replaced.  This outfit was too staid, too proper, not her.  This woman wasn’t the product that she had chosen to be but rather what they had wished she would have become.  Restrained, God fearing rather than Jah loving, rooted in one place rather than following the path her spirit led her down.  She was finally a product of the worn out, Bible thumping south that she feared.  There was no one I knew in this polished brown box.  I turned away.  The distance was greater than it had been when I didn’t know where to find her.

Camera flash.  Someone took a picture of the prodigal daughter being greeted by her lost child.  Camera flash. Another picture for a macabre photo album that would be left dusty under coffee tables of strangers to pass on to future generations.  My reality set in, someone was taking pictures.  Someone was actually taking fucking pictures.  I felt sick but bolstered by anger.  “No pictures.  I want it to stop”.  I thought I was yelling forcefully but later realized that I was a picture of frailty bordering on hysteria, hoarsely making demands.  “How can you take pictures? Put those cameras away!”  My maternal grandmother was obviously prepared for and accepting of this sideshow aspect of things at her daughters funeral but willing to help me by pleasantly guiding the spectators away, asking them to put the cameras away.

And then, a different voice, “That’s enough! Get a hold of yourself and cut it out.  You know better, Stephanie“, she spat my name.  I turned, surprised.  This bitch, a paternal relative that had known me my entire life, was indignant with me at my mother’s funeral.  She stood there supporting her own mother at the arm and glared at me.  There is great irony to telling someone to get over something that they would be forced to live with for the rest of their life, but this, this was overstepping boundaries to the nth degree.  My mind raced but I could only utter the words of a hurt, petulant child, “Do not tell me what to do”.

Years later, I laugh at this retort.  The thought that someone who expresses her feelings through the written word and has built a career around sales presentations and seminars, couldn’t find a more fitting reply is both laughable and a testament to the mind blowing destruction of pain.

I walked away with that moment, the most memorable part of my final goodbye to my mother.  I have replayed it often, visualizing myself ready with a witty retort or the questions that I so simply want to ask today. “Is it fair to stand there gripping your beloved mother’s arm while telling me that I am reacting irrationally at the death of my own?”  “Is the love that I have for my parent so insignificant because you judge her so harshly for her humanity?”  “How do you, mother to two children of your own, suggest I get a hold of myself?” “Seeing as how this is my first and only possible experience mourning my mother, what should I know better?” “Did you hear those words in some Lifetime Movie and think it was appropriate for the occasion or are you really fucking serious, right now?”  

I didn’t.  I sat there through that funeral hating her more than I hated the universe for forcing this experience on me.  I glared at her with a side eye and promised that I would never forget this, a promise I wish I hadn’t made considering my long memory that doesn’t allow me to forget much anyway.  The level of anger that I experienced made me recall all of the times in which I thought this particular relative was too opinionated but could never tell her because of my “trained respect”.  My disdain for her in that moment allowed me to live through a service in which the pastor eulogized my mother as Sharon, Sheila, and Sheena….her name was Shivet.

Years have passed and I use the quote, “It’s impossible to pick anything up when you’re holding grudges”, as a reminder to release the events that you can’t change and the negative feelings associated with them, if for no other reason than making room for opportunity.  I’ve been told by my significant other that holding a grudge doesn’t help because the other person moves on while you bear the impact of it, and he’s right.  Interestingly enough, I realize from other brushes with the same individual that she wouldn’t have found her behavior questionable that day, not surprising,  people who know so much rarely know when they are wrong.  Years passed and we didn’t speak to one another until a family event, at which we were cordial and I behaved as though nothing happened.  Although, there is a life scar from the blow dealt that day it is not as significant as the lessons I’ve learned and put in place as accountability measures in my own life:

1) Being older doesn’t make you immune to being wrong or create the immediate right to respect.  This allows me to be remorseful and apologetic when I verbally or emotionally injure my children, something many adults could learn from.

2) Opinion and truth isn’t the same thing.  Truth is a necessary part of communication but opinions can often be left out in order to salvage or maintain relationships, particularly with loved ones.

3) Grief can be a paralyzing, gripping ball of emotions and is best dealt with as the person who is grieving sees fit.  When I know that someone is hurting whether it’s over the loss of a loved one or a broken relationship, I offer my ear and seal my lips so that they are able to process their pain in the manner that works best for them while still having access to my support.

I wish that all funerals were a celebration of life, an opportunity to demonstrate the love and compassion that you had for the person who has moved on.  If they were, I would have thrown a block party in Brooklyn on E 29th and Nostrand, played her favorite Reggae music, Michael Jackson and Mary Jane Girls albums, had a shave ice vendor giving every kid free cones with condensed milk, and been surrounded by her family and the FRIENDS that loved who she chose to be.  Since it wasn’t, I walk away with guarded memories of her eating rum raisin ice cream on sunny weekends as we took the train to the main library in NY and the evening ride back when she would tuck Violet candy into my hand as I gripped my Cabbage Patch in the other.  That’s all I have as I choose to celebrate my vision of her life.

(Impact Post #2)